Former mayor Mick Ireland: ‘I got punched at the park’ over art museum support

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times

Former Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland alleges that someone punched him four times Saturday afternoon during an event at Koch Lumber Park because of his position in support of the new Aspen Art Museum building.

Ireland, who served as mayor from 2007 to 2013, said Sunday that he was not injured by the shots he took to both shoulders, near his biceps. He did not report the incident to the Aspen Police Department.

“I was punched,” Ireland said.

“I’m OK. I was at a picnic — I didn’t know it was a private picnic — and I walked in there because my friend was in there. Some guy got up and started cussing at me about the museum, and I cussed back at him, and it went on for a while. And then he punched me a couple of times. I thought about whether I should punch him back and concluded not.”

Ireland said he doesn’t know the name of the man who hit him. He said it seemed the man punched him as hard as he could, but the blows never caused him any physical pain.

Aspen police Sgt. Chip Seamans said that when he got to work Saturday evening for his patrol supervisor’s shift, he heard about an earlier disturbance at the park, which is located a few blocks west of downtown Aspen. Since no victim reported the incident to police, officers did not investigate, he said.

“I knew something had been going on, but I also knew we never had a victim,” Seamans said.

The event was the Aspen Tour de Rump, Seamans said. An archived Aspen Times story describes the Aspen Tour de Rump as a longtime annual event in which bicyclists dress in costumes and make several stops around town for refreshments and games. The post-party is held at the park.

Ireland said a woman came up to him after the incident and said the man who delivered the punches had suffered a stroke recently and was undergoing behavioral issues.

“I thought, ‘I’m not dragging this guy into court; he’s got enough problems,’” Ireland said.

Ireland, who also is a former Pitkin County commissioner, sparked dozens of comments by posting what happened on his Facebook page. Most of his social-media friends were sympathetic; a few were not.

“Mick, this is going to be your legacy, that (art museum) monstrosity happened on your watch. You were supposed to protect town from s— like this. Great job,” one comment read.

“Thanks for the sympathy. What is your legacy?” Ireland replied.

When the 33,000-square-foot art-museum project was approved by the Aspen City Council in August 2010, development critics complained that its size was out of character for the downtown area. It has been a source of controversy since, with some members of the community contending that the process leading to council approval was rushed and conducted under the threat of litigation against the city.

The museum formerly was located on North Mill Street in a small city-owned building near the banks of the Roaring Fork River. The new museum building, at the corner of Spring Street and Hyman Avenue, held its official ribbon-cutting on Saturday. It opens to the public on Aug. 9.


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